Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I used to be a kid

You'd never know it to look at me, but once upon a time I was a little girl.

It didn't last long. I was the oldest of four kids and was called upon to help my mom with housework a lot. I remember that at the age of seven, I was already doing dishes, helping with supper and scrubbing floors on my hands and knees.

By the age of eight, I was babysitting my younger siblings when my folks went into town for groceries. I already thought I was too old to play with dolls or go on the merry-go-round at the fair.

At the age of ten, my parents went to the Twin Cities for a weekend and left me to get my siblings off to school on Monday morning. As a result, I was late for school and my 6th grade teacher shamed me in front of the class. When I explained why I was late she said I was old enough to get up on time.

I'm sure my mom thought this was good training for my inevitable future as a housewife. And, my teacher probably thought this was a lesson in responsibility. But looking back, I feel like I was cheated out of much of my childhood. I grew up way too fast.

Is this what you would call old-age angst?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Setting goals

In 19 days, I will reach the first anniversary of my blog. In checking my number of postings, I discovered that I will have to post 19 more to reach 200.

Therefore, I have set myself a goal to post every day for the next 19 days!

I have to admit that I'm not good at following through with my stated goals. For example: I am the sort who is always going to start a diet next Monday; I am always promising myself I'm going to get my desk cleaned off tomorrow; I'm going to get the garage straightened up next weekend, etc.

So, here I go with my 19 postings. May they all be more interesting than this one!

Monday, September 28, 2009

The neck knows...

Whoa! Autumn has fallen with a thud! It's cold and windy and my neck is telling me it's time to dig out the turtlenecks and pack away the T-shirts.

I started wearing turtlenecks back in the 80's because of my chronic stiff neck in cold weather. This is not a good look for me with my short neck and stout stature. But, it's the only way I can stay limber in the head-turning department. I also do neck exercises to keep the noggin sitting comfortably on said stout stature.

I have frequented oodles of second-hand thrift stores over the years buying every color of turtleneck shirt. I cut the long sleeves off and then wear the shirt as a shell under under a variety of tops. I like to think of this as my "signature" look. Believe me, this is as fashion-conscious as I ever get.

The cool weather puts me in the mood to make a big pot of soup. Or, maybe do some baking...

So, farewell to a lovely summer.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Keep on smilin'

I love smiley faces. I have a lot of them because I find them therapeutic. I also have a large collection of Garfields with smiles--or smirks--depending on your way of looking at it.

I have thought about selling my Garfield collection but they don't have very much value. This might be because there are literally thousands of Garfield items out there.

I am the proud owner of such mundane articles as Garfield brown paper lunch bags and plastic sandwich bags. I have a Garfield mug tree to hold the many unused Garfield mugs of every kind I own. I also have a lot of Garfield Christmas ornaments packed away along with the Easter and July 4th decorations.

Collecting is great fun until one day you look at your collection and say, "Now what?" Over the years I have collected green glass, cougar pictures and figurines, cedar waxwing pictures and figurines, calendar art, cookie jars, cat figurines, etc., etc.

I'm not a hoarder but eventually your things start to become a burden. Ownership is no longer fun and you realize that the joy was in the "hunting and gathering". Once you acquire the "prey", it becomes just stuff.

So, as much as I craves the smiles, the stuff has got to go!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Any good dream interpreters out there?

I had that dream again last night...the recurring dream that inevitably ends the same.

The setting is always different, but the constant is that there are a lot of people to feed. I'm desperately scrounging around trying to find food to prepare and get the table set. Sometimes I'm washing up dishes or searching cupboards for dishes. Even though the background crowd is oblivious of me, I'm frantic over getting things organized in the church basement or the school lunch room or the stranger's house.

Last night's version was especially frustrating: a group of elderly relatives are assembled (all of whom are actually deceased) and it's dinner time at this unfamiliar house. I can't find enough food in the fridge to make a meal and I can't find any dishes in the cupboards. The obligation is weighing heavily on me and I don't know what to do, but I keep scrambling around.

We decide to go to a restaurant. The relatives all get in one car and leave while I get in another car with my granddaughter driving. Several anonymous people are in the backseat.

When we get to the intersection, the old folks turn left to go into town but my granddaughter goes straight ahead. I keep telling her she has to go back so she makes a u-turn in the middle of the road. But we are stopped short by a camel directly in front of the car. It won't move and a farmer tells us that the camel is just curious about us.


It's the same every time. Not the camel, but my unfulfilled need to feed the people (or sometimes, clean up after them) is thwarted, leaving me feeling incompetent and frustrated.

This has been going on for years. Of course, I still occasionally have that nasty old school dream where you have a test you're unprepared for and can't find your locker etc.

What brings me down is that the dreams are so defeating. Why can't I have a fun dream sometimes? Why can't I have an enlightened or uplifting dream that empowers me?

And, what kind of putz am I if I can't even dream well?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A lot of apple thoughts

Minnesota has a bumper crop of apples this year. Apparently the erratic weather was precisely what the apple trees needed to do their optimum best. As a result, there's going to be a lot of apple pies and apple crisp in our future.

(I debated whether that previous sentence should read "There's going to be a lot..." or "There are going to be a lot...". I decided that one could say, "That lot of apples is spoiled", therefore the sentence would be correct.)

But, I digress.

All three of my daughters are great cooks and bakers. When I assembled my family cookbook several years ago, I got a lot of great recipes from them. Many of them are family favorites: apple sauce; apple butter; Waldorf salad; kugel; apple-sweet potato casserole; apple enchiladas; apple bars and caramel apples!

Now, I ask you, how in the world can you lose weight during apple season?

(I guess I should go out to an apple farm and pick some apples!)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Life is difficult for us Ditzes

I had a frustrating day yesterday greatly compounded by my own ditz-iness. This was no doubt due to the allergy pill I took the night before.

I had a doctor appointment at 10:00 but didn't wake up until 9:10 so I had to rush. When I was done at the clinic, I went over to Target to get a few things.

As I pushed the big red shopping cart to my car, I used the automatic door-opener gadget on my key chain to pop the trunk. I loaded the bags in the trunk, reached up and slammed the trunk closed. In that brief split second, a mental Boing! made me realize that I had laid the car keys down in the trunk! I desperately dug through my purse to make sure I hadn't absent-mindedly put them inside. No such luck--the keys were inside the trunk, all right.

Well, OK, I have road insurance through AARP just for such occasions. I went back inside the store to the service desk to use the phone. After several minutes I got a service rep on the phone and told her my problem.

"I'm in the parking lot at Target and I can't get into my car."

After an "interview" in which I had to verify every single detail of my personal information, I again explained that I locked my keys in the trunk. When I told her again I was in the parking lot at Target, I needed to explain that Target was a store.

I finally asked, "Are you in the United States?"

"No, I'm in India."

It took a while to narrow down the details of my location so she could figure out where my car was in the middle of a foreign country. She eventually told me the service truck would arrive in 30 minutes and I should wait by the car.

By that time, it was a hot, humid 80 degrees and I wasn't about to spend a half hour standing in the full sun. I waited inside the store for a while, fuming the entire time about Allstate (the provider of roadside insurance for AARP) outsourcing jobs to India.

After 20 minutes, I went back outside to stand next to the car. After a while, I went over and pulled on the door handle and the door opened. Duh! I had absent-mindedly opened the door at the same I opened the trunk.

So, I pushed the trunk-opener button under the dashboard, popped the trunk and retrieved my keys. Feeling sheepish, I went back in the store and called the Allstate 800-number to cancel the service call.

(I wonder if all those Allstate employees in India have health insurance?!)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


In today's morning newspaper, there is a feature story on football fanatics who are into extreme decorating. This picture was shown on the front page of the Variety Section to illustrate the story.

I have no problem with going overboard for the home team--I'm sure it's loads of fun. However,I have a big problem with misspelled words or incorrect grammar on signs etc. So, when I saw the poster bordering the room with the Vikings fight song (Skol Vikings), the line, "you'll here us yell" leapt right out at me.

How embarrassing for those folks! The error has been publicized and distributed all over the state of Minnesota. They will surely take a lot of ribbing over that.

OK, but it doesn't rank with a legislator publicly yelling "You lie!" at the President.

It doesn't rank with a tennis player yelling obscenities and threats at an official.

And it doesn't rank with an entertainer rushing the winner of an award, grabbing the microphone from her and yelling that someone else should have won.

(And how about all the town hall meetings where elected officials have been verbally assaulted by hordes of yelling protesters and nothing was accomplished?)

Every one of these incidents have been in the news recently. Where has common decency gone? It seems to me that "If you have to yell it, you probably shouldn't say it!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My real, dead crunchy frog!

With apologies to Kermit the frog, I'm going to post about my Monty Pythonesque treasure.

We were cleaning out the spare bedroom where my little "office" sits huddled in the corner. I have a small bookcase next to my desk where I keep my Thesaurus, Garfield Dictionary and an assortment of grammar books. Next to that is a chunky 70's-style bedside table that I use as a filing cabinet. When we pulled out the table, there was something that looked like a big hairball stuck in the corner next to the bookcase. I picked it up and discovered it was the dessicated body of a long-dead frog.

I held it up and declared, "I have a crunchy frog! A real dead crunchy frog."

For those who were deprived of the glory days when PBS ran the British comedy show Monty Python's Flying Circus, this line comes from a sketch where a health inspector comes to the Whizzo Chocolate Factory to complain about the selections in their Quality Assortment-- Ram's Bladder Cup, Anthrax Ripple and Crunchy Frog. Hilarity ensues. (You can find it easily by googling "Crunchy Frog".)

OK, now that I've got it, what do I do with it? Hmmm, I wonder what it would sell for on ebay?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gophers are interesting--really!

This is the thirteen-striped gopher that the University of Minnesota athletic teams have been named after for over a hundred years.

When I was a kid, they were so plentiful we saw them everywhere. I remember when we traveled, we would count them by the dozens as they scampered along the roadsides. In parks, they would become little beggars entertaining the picnickers. Now, I haven't seen a striped gopher for years and years.

They were the bane of farmers and road-construction crews because their mounds and holes caused erosion problems. As a result, the state has been offering a bounty for their destruction for the last hundred years. They still aren't endangered and most folks wouldn't care if they were. Recently however, some Minnesota town clerks have rebelled against counting the severed feet to determine how many $2 bounties to pay out. (This begs the question, why not cut off the one tail instead of the four feet?) It's still gross but more practical.

UM-Duluth researchers have been studying the hibernation habits of the gophers. The little animals, only slightly bigger than a chipmunk, have remarkable ability to survive on 2% of their waking oxygen while their heart rate goes from 300 to 3 beats a minute. This research has resulted in a new lifesaving product called Tamiasyn. It will extend the "golden hour" for survival after strokes or blood loss emergencies. In addition, it will extend the viable period for transplanting organs.

(If you're interested in the research project, just google "Matt Andrews hibernation".)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Another lazy Sunday

It's been a hot day without much going on in the Twin Cities. This morning I read the Sunday paper and talked with my sister in Madison WI for an hour. I went on the patio and "deadheaded" the hanging petunia plant to keep it blooming.

I made myself some pancakes and covered them with some raspberry "freezer" jam my cousin gave me. I watched Gracie for a while as she crouched down in front of the patio door "stalking" a tiny little mouse wandering around the tomato plants. Then I took a nap.

Am I boring or what! It really bothers me when I am so incredibly lazy.

Then I got to thinking about making an apple pie. Nothing swings me into action like making something tasty. I have a bunch of apples in the fridge that should be used up--especially now that the new crop is coming in. However, I'm debating whether it's too hot to bake.

But then, it cools off quickly when the sun starts to set and it will take a while to peel the apples and make the pie crust (from mix, but still...). Of course the pie will take an hour to bake and an hour to cool so by then it will be 9:00. This wouldn't be a problem except that cinnamon gives me heartburn if I eat it before bedtime.

Sigh... Life is so difficult for lazy, indecisive people like me.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday night all right!

This sweet couple like to go down to the pub every Saturday night and have a pint. The Mrs. gets dressed up but the Mr. doesn't get dressed up for anything. If I had to guess, I'd say his name is almost certainly Harry. I can't figure out what her name might be: Hermione? Deirdre?
What do you think her name is?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Should I go see Obama or not?

President Obama will be in the Twin Cities tomorrow speaking at the Target Center over in Minneapolis. I would kinda like to go but...

I have attended several such occasions in the past and I always wind up being shunted to an alternate location where I watch the proceedings on a TV screen. Now, exciting as being in the moment may be, I would just as soon watch it on my TV at home.

The Target Center is a large venue so I might actually get to be in the same place as the President, but there are a lot of drawbacks. The doors open at 9:30 am but the event doesn't begin until 12:30 pm. There will be an airport-type security search at the door, so no bags (does that mean purses?), umbrellas, sharp objects, signs, strollers or liquids.

I'm really concerned about the liquid restriction. Where am I going to get water? Anyone who knows me, knows that I am never without a bottle of water. Surely I will perish of thirst if I'm deprived of refreshment for hours and hours. I'm getting thirsty just thinking about it!

I guess I'll stay home and stay hydrated. I hope the President doesn't mind.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apple Cake Recipe

Since it's apple harvest season, I'm printing my mom's recipe for this wonderful apple cake. It's so good that I make it for company or on special occasions.
2 c white sugar.......................................3 c flour
4 eggs......................................................1 c butter
1 c cold coffee.........................................1/2 t cloves
1 c dark or golden raisins.....................1 c walnuts
3 c raw pie apples, peeled and chopped fine
Cream butter and sugar together and add eggs. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the cold coffee. Stir in the apples, raisins and nuts and mix well. Bake in a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan at 350 for an hour or until it's done in the center. You can serve it with Cool Whip, caramel syrup or frost it with:
Speedy Caramel Frosting:
1/4 c butter............................1/2 c brown sugar
4 T milk..................................1/2 t vanilla
1-1/2 c sifted powdered sugar
Melt butter in saucepan and add brown sugar. Cook for 2 min stirring constantly. Add milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth--add more milk if necessary. Spread on cake quickly as frosting hardens as it cools.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My friend, Garrison Keillor

I read online today that my dear friend, Garrison Keillor, is in the Mayo Clinic where he's being treated for a minor stroke. They say he should be OK and back to work pretty soon. Now I admit that he doesn't know who I am, but nevertheless he is a very dear friend of mine.

When I was a kid, I always thought that Minnesotans were the most bland, average people in the country. We didn't have any exceptional ways about us and we talked plain--not with exotic accents like the people from New York or the South. We didn't put on airs when it came to cooking or fashion. We traded hotdish (casserole to non-Minnesotans) recipes and dressed from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

But then, Garrison Keillor took a step back and took a good look at Minnesotans and noticed that we were sorta different in a folksy way. And don'cha know, we slowly became just a little bit more special as a result.

In 1987, Howard Mohr, one of the writers for Garrison's Prairie Home Companion radio show, published a book called How to Talk Minnesotan--A Visitor's Guide. I laughed out loud as I read the humorous bits about how my folks, relatives and other Minnesotans all talked. I remained smugly certain that I do not have an accent, however--at least not like the folks in the movie Fargo.

It has been such fun listening to Garrison Keillor's shows. I love the warmth and gentle humor and the fact that there is something just a little bit extraordinary about being from Minnesota.
So be well, Dear Friend!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Unexpected art in Valiant Tomatoes

I brought in three ripened tomatoes from the patio yesterday and dropped them in a bowl on the table. I walked by the bowl today and happened to have the camera in hand so I snapped this picture on a whim.

After I looked at the picture, I thought it looked pretty good. If I tried harder, I'll bet I could make it really artsy. Of course, Art is in the eye of the beholder and those are our very own tomatoes grown from seeds and lovingly tended since the beginning of the year--so, naturally I think they're just gorgeous.

We have been through a lot together, those tomatoes and I--from little seed cups under UV lights, to transplanting into bigger containers plus mfore frequent feeding and watering. And then the day in May when they finally went outside into their big pots in the sunshine! We pampered them with more feedings and waterings. We bought them cages to support their stems and kept them pruned. There were the long, harsh days of the drought and sunshine followed by the rainy spell with all the cloudy, rainy days. Unseasonably cool nights slowed their progress but they struggled on.

(Now, the 20 cent package of tomato seeds was a bargain. But the special lights, all the pots and potting soil, plant food, tomato cages, etc. have added up to a tidy sum. It doesn't appear we will wind up with more than 20 tomatoes, but that will be enough to share.)

Despite it all, these few valiant tomatoes now grace my table with their bright colors and their tempting, home-grown juicy goodness.

Now, excuse me while I go eat a $5 tomato...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Harkening back to my childhood (again)

Today's Pickles comic struck a note with me. As kids, my three siblings and I weren't allowed to say naughty words like Heck or Darn. In fact, we couldn't even say Butt. The buttock area was referred to as the Seater. (I found this to be quite confusing because Mom had a cedar chest).

Since we were average kids, however, the prohibition on cussing didn't stop us from talking trash to each other. We got away with Stinkpot, Snot, Dumbbell, Dope and Big Baby.

In those days, going to the bathroom was either Number 1 or Number 2. The word Pee--as in urinate--and the word Body--as in naked--were very edgy language in our young minds. Incredibly, there was a character on the Fibber McGee and Molly radio show named Mr. Peabody! We happily incorporated this into our lexicon of alternative cussing. As a result, our escalating cuss-progression became:
  1. Dummy!

This was the worst possible thing we could call a sibling. The offended child might well respond with, "I'm gonna tell Mom!" Fortunately, Mom was oblivious to the foul-mouthed implications of Peabody, so we still got away with it.

My parents' "expletives" were equally mild. Mom, being of Norwegian descent, would often say Ufta (oops) or Ishta (gross). She was also fond of using Ofers, as in: "Oh for dumb" or "Oh for cute!" Her favorite expressions were, "Oh, for Pete's sake!" and "Hon-est-ly!"

Dad would poke fun at Mom by doodling pictures of goofy-looking guys and labeling them Pete or Honest Lee. Dad's cussing consisted of, "Holy Smut!", "Son of a Gun", "Blame it!" or "Bunch of Hooey."

It seems rather sad that we have become much coarser people over the decades. And, it makes you wonder--where the heck will it all end?!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ms Sparrow grows a little wiser

I've been getting really lazy lately. I haven't posted since Sunday and I feel sheepish about it. I aspire to being one of those reliable bloggers who post every day but I just can't manage to pull it off. This does not speak well of my commitment.

I've actually been trying to sort through old file folders and reduce the clutter in my little corner. What throws me off is that I have to read everything before I can decide whether to keep it or not. Add to that my chronic indecisiveness and you have the "perfect storm" of inertia. My desk is piled high with old humorous emails that I have preserved for posterity. Such as:

Hello, welcome to the psychiatric hotline.
  • If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.
  • If your are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2.
  • If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5 and 6.
  • If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want, to just stay on the line while we trace your call.
  • If you're schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.
  • If you're manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press, no one will answer.

I just realized that in the 15 years or so since I received this, I have become more sensitive about the issue of mental illness. It's not nearly as funny as it used to be.

And so, into the recycling it goes. One down, several hundred to go...